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Opinion: The special session that could have been truly ‘special’

  

I, along with all my fellow members of the legislature, have been in a strange, chaotic, and mismanaged special session for weeks. I have lived in the city of St. Louis longer than any member of the General Assembly, and I love my city. We have challenges, major challenges with violent crime, but deep down I believe there is not one citizen who says, “If we only pass a few more laws we can have an impact on violent crime.”

State Rep. Steve Butz

The issue that I believe should have been addressed in a special session was to support the passage of a Streamline Sales Tax reform bill, a.k.a. the “Wayfair tax.”

I am being sarcastic when I say who could have possibly foreseen the exponential growth of the convenience and popularity of online shopping? Throw in a pandemic, and you have a literal explosion in this consumer preference. Your Missouri leadership has failed in passing a comprehensive Wayfair (online sales tax) bill. Every state in the nation that collects a sales tax has closed this loophole for online sales vendors except Florida and — you guessed it — Missouri.

Basic fairness demands that online sales be taxed in the same manner as are our brick and mortar stores. Contrary to some ideologues in Jefferson City, this is NOT A NEW TAX. Rather, it is simply collecting the sales tax due on purchases and levels the playing field for our traditional retailers who maintain a brick and mortar presence. Closing this loophole because of our state government’s inability to adjust to evolving technologies will allow critical funds to flow to both the state and our local municipalities. Our local municipalities rely heavily on sales tax revenue to fund the operations of local government that most directly affect our daily lives. City Administrator of Rolla John Butz says, “For many Missouri cities, sales tax is the lifeblood of funding basic services such as police, fire, animal control, public infrastructure, public parks etc.” To offset the loss for out of state purchases, the Wayfair legislation would help local cities and towns to substantially maintain the level of services required by our citizens.

I hope we can make our 2021 Legislative more productive than this year!